The success of a virtual event depends primarily on the content. In particular, it’s important to include speakers and topics that resonate with the audience and leave a lasting impression. Corporations and nonprofits should understand that enlisting great speakers for their virtual conference is non-negotiable to achieve event targets.
Speakers help create the initial impact that drives every other aspect of the conference. Therefore, event organizers should choose them carefully and guide them properly to deliver the best experience possible.
If you want to get the best from your conference speakers, this guide will help you achieve optimum delivery and audience engagement at your speaking sessions. We’ll cover the following specifics:
1. Content Preparation and Delivery
Virtual conference speakers should be intentional about what they want to achieve with their sessions. Speakers should be clear about:
- What they want attendees to learn
- How they want attendees to feel
- What they want attendees to leave the event with
The first is about the key lessons speakers want to teach, the second is about the experience they want attendees to have, and the third is the memories they want to create for attendees. While any good speaker can create content that will be beneficial to attendees, great speakers focus on creating captivating experiences and memories that linger with attendees.
Start by choosing your presentation format
How can you make your presentation connect most with your audience? Do you prefer a webinar-style presentation or an interactive, live video style? Choose a format that will help you be at your best. You may also consider combining both by switching between your slides and camera when presenting. Whichever style you are choosing, take note of the following suggestions:
- Use an event-branded title slide
- Incorporate lots of visuals. This includes using images, videos, and infographics to make your presentation interesting.
- When making a webinar-style presentation, don’t forget to engage attendees using embedded interactive tools like comments, Q&A, and polling, or ask a moderator to help you with that.
2. Speaker’s Equipment
The speaker’s equipment goes a long way toward enhancing the speaking experience. Inadequate equipment or set-up can mar a presentation. Speakers should ensure that the following elements are available in the correct proportion before giving their presentation. Here’s what to use in your event:
- Video and sound quality: HD video with high-quality sound is required to capture the audience’s attention.
- Room lighting: Ensure that the lighting in the room is sufficient to support a good video quality. Also, avoid placing any light source behind you in the room, including window lights.
- Background: Use a neutral background, and avoid backdrops with pictures or distracting graphics to not pull the audience’s attention from the presentation.
- System and mobile requirement: Speakers will need a computer and mobile device with an excellent operating system and optimum speed to allow a virtual event platform or app to run without hitches or slowing down.
- Reliable and high-speed internet: Speakers should have good internet speed and bandwidth for a smooth presentation. While there is no hard and fast rule about the amount of speed you need, you can test your internet speed by making a mock live presentation on either Facebook or YouTube and seeing how it performs. You can also do this during a pre-event test.
- Multiple monitors: Use two monitors to connect more with the audience when making your presentation. One of the monitors will be where you see your webcam and slides, and the other monitor will be to see the faces of the audience, read the room, access engagement, and know who is asking questions. We suggest placing monitors just above the other, so you don’t have to look away from your camera when observing the audience.
You can also use any other equipment or device that can help you enhance your production quality. Event organizers can send presentation kits to speakers to achieve quality and uniformity in the event production.
3. Virtual Event Platform & Audience Engagement
Virtual event speakers need to get familiar with presenting to virtual audiences via an event platform or mobile event app. While it might not be challenging to connect to such platforms, making good use of the embedded audience engagement tools really makes the difference. Therefore, you should locate and use these tools to use during your presentation:
- Q&A – Pause in-between sections of your presentation to take questions from attendees
- Polls – Create polls to read the room and assess if attendees are following and understanding the training.
- Gamification – New learning trends require that you gamify the learning experience. There are tools available that you can use to create games per what you want attendees to learn.
Ensure that you are also reading the comment section or session chat to know how attendees relate to your presentation. If you can’t handle this yourself, the event organizer can provide a moderator to help with that.
4. Speaker’s Comportment
You can get it all right in your content and equipment but lose the audience due to poor comportment or posture. Below is a guide for comportment when making a virtual presentation:
Camera: Keep eye contact with the camera when speaking. This helps the audience to connect with you and feel that you are talking to them directly. You can drag your video thumbnail to the top center of the screen to help you focus more on the camera.
Voice: Modulate your voice to connect with the audience emotionally. When you connect emotionally with your audience, your presentation will resonate with them naturally.
Posture: You can sit or stand, whichever one is more convenient for you. However, when sitting in a chair, avoid any form of swivel. Instead, gesture with your hands. Also, avoid sitting or standing too close to the camera.
Dressing: Dress according to the dress code provided by the event organizer. General best practices typically involve wearing business casual and solid colors. Avoid colors like black, white, red, and stripes. Those can cause poor video quality due to reflection or illusions.
Noise: Remove anything that can cause distraction. If possible, avoid household noises from TV, kitchen, bathroom, and kids if you are presenting from home, and silence phone notifications.
You may watch the presentations of other professional speakers and observe their posture and demeanor. You might encounter habits or best practices that will guide you when preparing for your presentation.
5. Pre-event Preparation
Astute virtual event speakers take ample time to prepare themselves for their presentation. Apart from making sure that content and slides are all ready, they also check their technology to ensure that everything is working fine. Here is a list of what to do when making your final preparations
- Run a trial presentation with your equipment
- Ensure that you can switch between screen and camera intermittently when you need to
- Dress professionally
- Present from the place where you will be making the real presentation
- Ensure that you are familiar with using interactive tools on the virtual event platform and event app
- If using two monitors, ensure that you can easily control what you are seeing on each screen
Connect to the platform at least 30 minutes before the start of your presentation. That will give you the time to check your tech and resolve any connection issues. This will also help you to stay calm, which will be helpful for your performance.
6. Delighting the Audience
You need to innovate when presenting, in order to delight your audience. Like every other event format, you need to make an excellent first impression. Here are elements to keep in mind:
Connecting with attendees
Introduce yourself to attendees and try and get to know them too. Ask them to introduce themselves via chat or live on video if the session format allows. Ask them to mention their names, their positions, and where they are connecting from. Read out a few of the responses and acknowledge their presence and participation. That will help you warm up yourself and the attendees and will create some connection before diving into your presentation.
Making the presentation
Engage the art of storytelling and comedy to delight your audience. Find illustrative stories and jokes that you can use for humor during your presentation. These will help to draw them into the presentation even more.
Make your presentation as short and straight-to-the-point as possible. Consider spending less time on virtual presentations than you would have done if presenting the same in person. An hour in-person presentation should not take more than 40 minutes in a virtual environment. Be as brief and concise as possible to retain attendees’ attention.
Making an excellent presentation in a virtual event requires consistent practice; the more often you present, the more you get used to it. Prepare for each event by researching your audience to know which speaking styles resonate with them more and how best to engage them.
Christina Tomlinson is the VP of Marketing & Events at Pathable. With over 8 years of experience in the event industry, Christina prides herself on her creativity, passion for people, and ability to create memorable experiences. Before joining the Pathable team, some of Christina’s experience includes directing a team as the Associate Director of Events for a DMC in Austin, TX and marketing, planning, and executing brand events as the Regional Event Manager at a corporate experiential agency. Through her years of experience, Christina strives to remain a thought leader in her industry, and places a high value on evolution and growth in the events space.